Sister is backing a new podcast studio dubbed Campside Media.
The company is the brainchild of some of the most influential forces in podcasting. It was founded by Josh Dean (“The Clearing”), Vanessa Grigoriadis (“Tabloid: The Making Of Ivanka Trump”), Matthew Shaer (“Over My Dead Body”), and screenwriter/producer Adam Hoff. The new network has 11 non-fiction podcasts in production or development, ranging from true crime tales to adventure stories.
“We want our company to be focused on creators and storytellers and we want to make sure that the quality of our shows is protected,” said Dean. “This is such a loaded term, but we are a prestige company. The shows we make are expensive and they take a long time to produce and require that a specific kind of talent is brought to bear.”
A lot of that talent will be reporters with investigative chops.
“The concept for the company is to work with non-fiction journalists who have written books and in most cases worked on a story for five years and staying in touch with their sources,” said Grigoriadis. “We think those are the stories that need to be told in this medium.”
Sister is a global content company with its own impressive pedigree. It is run by media executive Elisabeth Murdoch, “Chernobyl” producer Jane Featherstone, and former 20th Century Fox film chief Stacey Snider. The move is another sign of the growing overlap between the worlds of Hollywood and podcasting. In recent years, the likes of Conan O’Brien and Lena Dunham, who are known for their small-screen work, have ventured into podcasting, while popular podcasts such as “Slow Burn” and “Homecoming” have inspired TV series.
“We want to support creators wherever they are and in whatever format they work,” said Snider. “Podcasting is a medium that we’re all personally obsessed with. They’re so addictive and binge-worthy.”
Campside’s programs will produce ad-supported content, as well as programs for subscription services. Its first show is a 10-part series on the Hollywood Con Queen scam, the story of a grifter who impersonated such major media executives as Amy Pascal, Victoria Alonso, and Snider herself. It will be hosted by Dean, who co-developed the series with Grigoriadis.
Other shows expected to launch in the company’s first year include “Masked,” the story of a botched murder investigation in Seattle (co-reported by Shaer and fellow magazine journalist and
“Over my Dead Body” alum Eric Benson) and the first of the three projects being developed by Sister; “The Lost,” hosted by Italian journalist Matteo Fagotto, and the story of a mother and daughter who reunite after being separated in a black market adoption scandal involving the Spanish government; and “Hooked,” the story of a bank robbery spree set against the backdrop of the opioid crisis. Created and hosted by Dean, “Hooked” is in development for TV with John Ridley for ABC Studios. Sister also recently reached an agreement with journalist Sean Flynn to do a podcast based on his article “The Longest Night,” the story of a fishing boat that sinks in the Bering Sea.
“We want to tell complex stories that are based on true events, and to tell them in innovative ways,” said Shaer.
Sister didn’t reveal its financial commitment to Campside, other than to call it is “significant.” Last month, Variety broke the news that Sister had invested in AWA Studios, a new comic book company from a series of Marvel Comics veterans. In the case of Campside, the two companies hope to eventually find ways to give some of the podcasts an after life as television shows. Sister and Campside say they have already identified three projects to develop for television as part of a first-look agreement.
“Sister has its own brand, but sometimes our projects and taste will overlap in exciting ways,” said Hoff.
Campside said that the coronavirus crisis and the social distancing that has become standard practice around the country are complicating the way it produces shows. In the process, the company has shifted to conducting interviews over Zoom and shipping recorders to people. It’s also leaning on archival elements, such as previously reported interrogations or wire taps, as it works to assemble its podcasts.
“It’s definitely made in-person reporting impossible,” said Shaer.